What is your favorite fly rod? What was your favorite a year
or two ago? How about ten years ago?
Certainly the technology of producing fly rods has changed, and
for some that doesn't mean it has improved. There is a "new"
introduction of fly rods which are fiberglass. For those who
haven't been around fly fishing very long, fiberglass rods are
not new at all. In fact, following World War II, the first fly
rods not made of bamboo or metal (can you believe a steel telescopic
fly rod?) were taken from the antennas of tanks!
I read very recently an article quoting a rather well-known cane
rod maker who claimed the graphite rod manufacturers have very
few options on designing a rod. "With graphite, you're really
limited because wall thickness and diameter are
the only two things you can vary," he said. "In trying to get
them more and more sensitive at the tip, graphite rod-makers
keep reducing the wall thickness. That's the reason they're
so brittle and they break so easily. They're actually more
brittle than bamboo."*
Unfortunately his statement is wrong, or at best only partially correct.
You can pound a peg of bamboo through a piece of wood, which would
indicate bamboo is stronger. Otherwise our cane rod maker is
mis-informed. Graphite rods vary widely in the wall thickness.
The construction of the fabric in combination with the type
of resin used also can vary a great deal. The fabrics themselves
can be designed to preform in specific ways, and to put extra strength
where the manufacturer feels it is needed. Additionally, the shape
of the "wedge" of fabric rolled on the form (mandrill) on which
the rod is made can also be varied with more or less fabric
in specific spots. This is where the engineering genius of Russ
Peak revolutionized the design of fiberglass rods over thirty
years ago. When the rod is produced, the manufacturer can also
use more than one combination in different parts of the rod. The
butt section may be stronger and different by design and content
than the tip section, more or less 'modulas.' I own at least
one rod which I know was specifically designed that way, and
it's a power house without being overly 'fast' or stiff. The
best description would be 'strong.'
Add to the graphite/resin mix the chemical compositions which may
also be altered. Combinations of titanium, boron, or ceramic are
recent examples of what can be added, and in varying combinations
Graphite and fiberglass rods can be designed as slow, medium or fast
rods in an endless variety of tapers, producing specific
actions, not to mention lengths.
For the past several years the trend in graphite rods has been to
make 'faster' rods. Rods which throw a tighter loop of line, and
sacrifice (in my opinion) finesse and ease of casting. I suspect
only a small percentage of the folks who have purchased these 'hot'
rods are able to achieve the kind of performance designed into them.
Did they buy them because of the marketing hype associated with the
new rods which come out each year, or because they were searching
for something they have not yet found in a fly rod?
Can you identify what the qualities of your favorite rod are?
Does your choice of favorites change by specific uses or places?
As your experience in fly fishing expands and your casting
ability improves, have your rod preferences changed? If you could
design a rod to fit your needs, what would it be?
So what is a person new to fly fishing to do?
My first suggestion is to decide what kind of fishing you want to do.
Is it streams? Lakes? Ponds? Big or small water? Freshwater or
salt? What is the size of fish you are targeting? What type?
Take a casting class. Seriously, it will cut years off the learning
curve and possibly avoid ingraining bad habits. Casting is the doorway
to successful fly fishing. I would highly suggest that any instructor
be most willing to provide you with references from folks who have
taken his class. All instructors are not equal. (No, I'm not
Ask if the instructor provides a variety of rods for you to try.
My husband, JC, and I had 12 different 6 wt rods which we let all
of our students cast. They were all the same length, (9 foot)
with identical lines, from all kinds of manufactures. It's not
really a good comparison to try different weight rods with different
lines. Rods and lines are confusing enough for any beginner.
Some instructors have connections to a particular rod company
and will not have rods from any other source. Be sure to try
rods of different price ranges as well. Some of the lower priced
rods are made by the same companies which sell to the 'big names'
who market those rods at considerably higher prices. If having
a 'big name' rod is terribly important to you, you may find you
missed some very good rods (and you may be in the wrong sport).
Lacking a good class, get Joan Wulff's
Dynamics of Fly Casting, now in both DVD and video.
It is the best instructional video available. Frankly, I have
not found a book which I think does the job.
To the new folks, cast every rod you can. Hit the local fly shops.
you have a fly fishing club, get involved. (This will help you stay
focused as well, and the other members will get you pointed in the
right direction.) Most have events where you can try rods from
other members, and some schedule fishing trips as well. Don't
be afraid to ask questions. A rod is a large enough investment
to make intelligent choices - and more importantly, you need a
rod which works for you - not some salesperson in a fly shop.
Is there a perfect rod? What I may consider perfect may not even
come close to one you will like.
Our fishing and our requirements may be totally different. Our
casting styles and experience probably are not the same. If you
have narrowed your choice down to a couple of rods, I'd be glad
to give you my opinion of them, that however is just my opinion.
After all, a fly rod is a very personal thing. ~ LadyFisher
* To read the whole article on the west coast rodmakers, click
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